An inguinal hernia occurs in the groin, and is the most common type of hernia. It is a protrusion of abdominal contents (fat or intestines) through a weakness in the abdominal wall muscles, and usually presents as a groin swelling.. In men, the swelling may extend downwards into the scrotum, near the testis.
Approximately 6% of all men will develop an inguinal hernia. Although a lot rarer in women, it is still the most common type of groin hernia in women. It can occur on either the right or the left side or even on both sides. Hernias can develop in all age groups: in childhood, adolescence, adulthood and in the elderly.
A hernia may become more apparent or bigger when the person is standing or straining; and may disappear when lying down. It may be associated with discomfort, a pulling sensation, or even pain. If left untreated, a hernia may become larger and irreducible, which can be further complicated by obstruction or strangulation of the bowel that is being trapped inside the hernia sac. This happens when the lumen of the bowel passing through the hernia opening (neck) becomes blocked or the blood supply to the bowel inside the hernia is cut off by the tight narrowing at the hernia neck.
If a complicated hernia is left untreated, the patient may develop vomiting from bowel obstruction, or experience severe pain in the hernia or abdomen from strangulation. When such complications occur, the patient can become very ill and the condition may be potentially fatal.
If you suspect you have a hernia, or if you have an abdominal swelling, please see a doctor. A hernia is usually diagnosed by physical examination of the abdomen. For a less obvious swelling, an ultrasound or a CT scan may help confirm the diagnosis. X-rays or a CT scan may also be performed to look for acute complications such as bowel obstruction or strangulation. Surgery may be advised to prevent or treat the complications.
Surgery can be performed to repair a hernia and prevent complications from occurring. This involves returning the abdominal contents to the abdominal cavity, and reinforcing the weakened area of the abdominal wall. This is usually done with an insertion of a mesh over the weakened area. The mesh causes the body to form strong scar tissue in the region it is placed, strengthening the abdominal wall in the region.
Hernia repair surgery may be performed by incising over the length of the abdominal hernia in an open approach, or via a laparoscopic (keyhole) approach where a camera and instruments are inserted through 5-10mm incisions into the abdominal cavity. Procedural time may vary, depending on the size and complexity of your hernia. The details of hernia surgery will be discussed when you consult a surgeon.
You may resume light activities as soon as your doctor advises. When the wound is no longer painful, you may start doing light exercises including brisk walking, climbing stairs, jogging, as well as cycling, increasing the intensity gradually if your physical condition allows it. You may be advised to refrain from lifting heavy loads over 10kg or doing strenuous exercises early in your recovery.